2002 Review October Thru December

December 30, 2002
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October

Employers fighting rising health care costs finally caught a break when Kent Health Plan Corp. rolled out Plan C, a new program designed for small companies with low-wage workers. Plan C divides the cost of monthly premiums three ways, with Kent Health Plan, the employer and the employee participating.

Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel may have a plan for Olds Manor, but they're not telling. The pair bought the former veterans facility at the corner of Michigan and Monroe but, as of the end of the year, had yet to announce a specific project for the site.

Steelcase made a significant change in its management structure when Frank Merlotti Jr. took over as head of North American operations. He pledged to spend his first 100 days listening to employees, dealers and suppliers.

Another change in leadership occurred at Byron Center State Bank when Patrick Gill took over for John Van Singel as president and CEO. The bank also caught the eye of federal regulators, who put a crimp in expansion plans until issues of bank management and asset quality were brought under control.

On the medical front, U-M and GVSU rolled out a partnership in pharmacy education, which allowed GVSU to put on hold a proposal to create a new college of pharmacy.

Alticor got in on the good news, too, reporting worldwide sales of $4.5 billion for the fiscal year, representing an approximately 11 percent jump from the previous year.

November

Farming was in the air when the cooler weather arrived, most notably when the Kent County board undertook the issue of Purchase of Development Rights for rural land. The issue would divide commissioners at the committee level, but the full board would vote to go ahead with the program. At year's end, however, no firm source of funding for the program was available.

Spartan Stores Chairman, President and CEO James B. Meyer announced that he would be retiring in 2003, at a date that "will be based on the time necessary to achieve an orderly and seamless transition."

A transition that wouldn't be so seamless, however, is that of the Grand Rapids post office from a government agency to a site for potential development. A Business Journal analysis showed that moving the post office from Grand Rapids to a potential site in Kentwood would cost the city more than $525,000 in income tax revenue. On top of that, the Kentwood site would be too small to accommodate a full-sized mail-processing center.

In a move that did make financial sense, however, S.J. Wisinski & Co. tabbed former BDO Seidman managing partner Cy Moore to head up a new real estate investment division.

Pioneer Inc. grabbed the top honor in the Neighborhood Business Awards when it won the Gerald Helmholdt Grand Prize for the Boardwalk, a mixed-use development that features loft apartments. The Monroe North and Wealthy Street business districts also earned several honors.

A survey by the Business Journal, Plante & Moran and GVSU found that three out of four executives were optimistic when looking ahead to 2003. That was much better news than in 2002, when just over 51 percent said they were on the optimistic side.

In Grand Haven, North Ottawa Community Hospital got a new chief executive when Mike Payne took over, following a stint as interim president and CEO that began in February.

Fifth Third Bank ended up under the microscope, too, when federal regulators became interested in a $54 million impairment charge that resulted from reconciliation errors in the bank's treasury department. The Feds put a temporary hold on any acquisitions until the matter is straightened out.

Gentex finished off a good year by announcing that it would build its new manufacturing facility in the Zeeland area, instead of Tennessee. Of course, an $11 million incentive package from the state had something to do with the decision.

December

The year is closing, but construction at DeVos Place is just getting started. Accelerated construction, that is. The Convention and Arena Authority decided to approve another $275,000 for the general contractor in an effort to get the convention center ready for shows by Thanksgiving 2003, thereby attracting three more shows to the facility and millions in revenue.

Saint Mary's Mercy Medical Center and Spectrum Health joined forces to bring West Michigan its first PET scanner. The device will be housed at a third-party location, Advanced Radiology Services, and the $3.95 million project should get started early in 2003.

The legal profession made its presence felt when WMU and Thomas M. Cooley Law School and GVSU, Michigan State University and MSU's East Lansing branch of the Detroit College of Law announced separate projects that will bring a bevy of legal education opportunities to West Michigan.

Steelcase closed the year looking for a buyer for its 857,000-square-foot plant at 3800 Eastern Ave. The asking price: $8.5 million. Plant tours are scheduled for prospective buyers in January.

After 40 years, the city of Grand Rapids adopted a new master plan that will guide development for at least the next 20 years. The document is the culmination of some 250 meetings that gathered input from more than 3,000 residents.

Certificate of Need reform snuck in under the 2002 deadline when legislators agreed to a plan that alters the composition of the commission that establishes CON review standards, provides flexibility for health systems seeking to relocate licensed hospital beds to a sister facility within the same market, makes it easier for care providers in some counties to obtain an MRI, creates more legislative oversight to the program and seeks to streamline the application process.

Finally, the year ends with Steelcase and Herman Miller predicting there is no clear sales rebound in sight, and with Haworth announcing that it is beginning a CEO transition.

The world's three largest furniture makers are forecasting a turnaround for sometime in 2003, however, and that's a good way to end a bad year.           

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